What is Eggplant?

(“Melanzana” – "Milinjiani" or “Milinciani”)


 

There are many varieties of eggplant in various shapes, colors and sizes. They may be round, elongated, oval; purple-black to white; weighting from one ounce to five pounds. Native to India, the eggplant was cultivated in Asia, specifically, the white variety that was very common and grows to the size of an egg, hence the name eggplant.

Eggplants


The eggplant or “baadenjaan” in Arabic was introduced in the western world around the year 750 by the Moorish invaders of the Iberia Peninsula and called “berenjena” or “berenjela”.
Soon after it was brought into Sicily by the Arabs it was named “milinjiana” ("milinciana" in Palermo's dialect).

 

Eggplant Recipes

 

Appetizers:
Sweet and Sour Eggplant Salad – Caponatina
Stuffed Eggplants Beccafico- Lemon Sauce
Rolled Eggplant w/Salami

Eggplants Parmiciana

Eggplants with Ricotta

Stuffed & Abbuttunati
Croquettes of Eggplants – Polpette di Melenzane Fritte
Grilled Eggplants- Melenzane alla griglia

Grilled Eggplants Vinaigrette

Eggplants Preserved in Oil- Melenzane sott’Olio

Eggplants “Cardinale”

Pasta:
Spaghetti with Eggplants – Palermo Style
Baked Penne with Eggplants, Pasta ‘ncasciata - Messina Style
Norma Eggplants, Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata Cheese – Catania Style
Spaghettini Eggplant and Ricotta Salata – Trapani Style

Main Dishes or in small portions as a Side Dish:
Baked Eggplant with Tomato and Cheese- Parmiciana
Breaded or Battered Eggplants – a Cotoletta
Fried Quail’s Style – a Quagghia
Miniature Eggplant Stuffed and Cooked in Tomato Sauce - Abbuttunati

 


This name is not a derivation from “al- baadenjaan” like the French “aubergine”. It is instead from the botanical mane Solanum Melongena, (melon means apple and gena means plant) which refers to the shape of a certain variety of the fruit which resembles an apple. 


In Italian “milinjiana was morphed into “melenzana” and incorrectly translated into English as mad apple (mela, apple; insana, a false cognate for insane). 

So yes, the eggplant is a fruit of the berry family; yet the bitter, spongy flesh cannot be eaten raw. Eggplants are versatile and used as condiment to various pasta dishes or preserved in oil to compliment sandwiches. The caponatina, bracioli, croquettes are delicious as a appetizer or side dish and as a main course like the tasty parmiciana also known as parmigiana, or cutlets or the miniature eggplants cooked in tomato sauce and  stuffed with cheese.

What should you know about buying and storing eggplants?
The lighter fruits are milder in flavor and the darker have a stronger taste. 
Fresh picked eggplants are less bitter than stored eggplants. 
Choose the smallest and the heaviest.
Make sure the color is uniform, the skin is tight, and there are no blemishes or wrinkles.
Do not refrigerate for too long that will dehydrate the flesh (which is primarily made of water). Long storage makes it bitter.

 

The most popular varieties in the market are:

  • Italian-American Eggplants. Large with dark purple skin
  • Italian Baby Eggplants. Small, deep purple skin, delicate flesh
  • Louisiana Long Green, or Applegreen. Good for broiling, sweet
  • Florida Market. Large to medium size, oval, glossy dark black